Burgersdijk (or Burgersdicius), Frank

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Burgersdijk (or Burgersdicius), Frank

(b. Lier, near Delft, Netherlands, 3 May 1590; d. Leiden, Netherlands, 19 February 1635)

natural philosophy.

Burgersdijk was a farmer’s son. His elementary and secondary studies were at the Latin school of Amersfoort and the Delft Gymnasium (1606–1610). He matriculated at Leiden University as a philosophy student on 6 May 1610. Burgersdijk was a distinguished student, obtaining his doctorate in 1614. His first appointment was at the Protestant academy of Saumur, where he was professor of philosophy from 1616 to 1619; here he composed his Idea philosophiae naturalis. He returned to Leiden as professor of logic and ethics, and delivered his inaugural lecture, “De fructu et utilitate logices”, in 1620. Burgersdijk was promoted to the chair of philosophy in 1628 and became a leading figure at the university, serving as rector (1629, 1630, 1634) and writing influential textbooks on natural philosophy, metaphysics, logic, ethics, and politics.

The reason for Burgersdijk’s popularity is apparent from his first book, Idea philosophiae naturalis which became the model for his later writings. His treatment of his subjects is clear, logical, concise, and well organized. The method of ordered studies that he adopted was designed to impart “solid erudition”. Proceeding by his method of definition and division, he explored the whole of natural philosophy in twenty-six disputations, each of which was a series of theses that could be further studied by consulting the pro and contra authorities listed. A further collection of disputations was given in the Collegium physicum. On the problems of natural philosophy Burgersdijk was strikingly insensitive to the new science, being content to draw upon the neo-Scholastic commentators of the late sixteenth century. Although a Protestant himself, Burgersdijk drew predominantly from Catholic sources, showing particular liking for the Iberian authors Suárez, Periera, and Toletus, and the Coimbra commentaries. His conservatism in astronomy is illustrated by his simplified edition of Sacrobosco’s Sphaera. He showed greater originality in the Institutionum logicarum, his most popular work, in which he sought a compromise between Aristotelian and Ramist logic, regarding as particularly important the roles of division and definition, which he considered equal to syllogism and method.

Burgersdijk’s highly successful textbooks made him the dominant figure in the final stage of Dutch Scholasticism, and his authority extended to England and Germany. His textbooks held their place in the universities long after his ideas had been eclipsed by Cartesianism.


I. Original Works. Burgersdijk’s works relating to natural philosophy are Idea philosophiae naturalis sivemethodus definitionum et controversarum physicarum (Leiden, 1622; at least eight later eds.); Institutionum logicarum libri duo (Leiden, 1626; at least twenty-seven eds., nine pub. in England); Institutionum logicarum synopsis (Leiden, 1626), almost as popular as the preceding work; Sphaera J.de Sacro-Bosco decreto in usum scholarum ejusdem provinciae recensita ut et latinitus et methodus emendata sit (Leiden, 1626; two later eds.); Collegium physicum in quo tota philosophia naturalis aliquot disputationibus perspicue et compendiose explicatur (Leiden, 1632; four later eds.); and Institutionum metaphysicarum libri II (Leiden, 1640).

II. Secondary Literature. Of the works given below, Dibon, Risse, and Wundt give assistance toward the compilation of a bibliography of Burgersdijk’s words. See Paul Dibon, La philosophie néerlandaise au siècle d’or, I (Amsterdam, 1954), 96–120, 150–153; Nieuw Nederlandisch biographisch Woordenboek, 1911–1937, VII, 229; Wilhelm Risse, Die Logik der Neuzeit, I (Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt, 1964), 515–520; and Max Wundt, Die deutsch Schulmetaphysik des 17 Jahrhunderts (Tübingen, 1939), pp. 87–89.

Charles Webster